DIY (do-it-yourself) Projects

Published on August 5th, 2014 | by Peter Young


Easy Maintenance Tips For Your Window Or Central A/C Unit to Improve Energy Efficiency


Maintaining your A/C unit, regardless of style, is a great way to keep your home cool and using energy efficiently. Did you know that by just regularly cleaning your A/C’s filter you could improve its efficiency by as much as 15%? Also, by simply shading your A/C unit you could improve its energy efficiency by as much as 10%. Needless to say, your A/C unit represents a great opportunity to save both energy and money in your home. Try implementing some of these basic maintenance tips to help ensure your unit is running efficiently.

Things you’ll need for the job:

Maintenance Tips

Before beginning any maintenance work on your A/C unit, you should look into your unit’s warranty information. You should be able to vacuum out debris and dust and change filters, but there may be things that will invalidate a warranty, so check that first. If your model is new, odds are, you don’t need to do much maintenance to it besides just cleaning and changing filters anyway.

If you feel comfortable with the warranty situation, you can begin to do some easy maintenance that can help you maximize your unit’s energy efficiency. First, be sure that there is no power running to it. You can do this by simply unplugging it, or flipping the breaker off that controls the power to your unit.

Properly maintaining your system may require the assistance of a trained professional. If you’re unsure about handling the project yourself, be sure to call a trained technician.

1. Clean or replace your A/C units filter. Depending on the type of filter you have you may be able to clean it, rather than replace it. However, if you’re going to replace it, do so with one that can be cleaned and re-used down the line. That way you’ll save money in the long run and prevent CO2 emissions from being created at the factory. Luckily, cleaning or replacing your units filter is a quick and simple task.

  • If you have a window A/C unit, all you have to do is remove the front plate. This should just click in and out of place. Gently pull on the cover till it pops free.
  • Next, remove the filter from the A/C unit and give it a thorough visual inspection. If your filter is made of cotton you won’t be able to re-use it. However, if your filter is made of polyurethane or another type of synthetic, you should be able to wipe it down and re-use it. Simply take your rag, soak it in a natural cleaning solution and wipe down both the front and back of the filter.
  • Set it to the side and be sure to let it dry fully before re-installing.
  • If you have a central A/C unit, you’ll likely find the filter in the main compartment of the A/C or in your furnace. It should be easy to get to, and should pull straight out from the furnace. Again, give it a thorough visual inspection and replace it with a re-usable filter if possible. Otherwise, simply wipe it down with your  rag and cleaning solution and allow it to air dry before re-installing.

2. Clean your unit’s condenser coils/fan. These coils help to direct the flow of air into your A/C unit. However, they tend to gather a fair bit of dust and debris and can be easily dented or warped. Ensuring that you have as much air flowing into your A/C unit as possible will help it to run more efficiently.

  • If you’re servicing a window A/C unit, the coils will be located behind the unit’s front cover. Simply remove the cover (which may require the use of a screwdriver), and gently scrub the coils using your stiff brush.

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  • Throughout the process you’ll likely knock a fair bit of material loose from the coils. After you’ve given them a thorough scrubbing, take your vacuum cleaner and suck up any mess that may have resulted.
  • Next, take your fin comb, identify the size of comb you’ll need for your unit, and gently work it “with the grain” of the coils to straighten out any kinks or dents. When you’re done, simply put the front cover back in place.
  • If you’re servicing a central A/C system, you’ll find the unit’s condenser coils and fan outside of the home.

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  • These condenser coils and fan should have their own power supply, so be sure to turn it off before starting the process. It will be in a “shutoff box” located on the wall next to the appliance. Simply open the box and either turn the switch to off or pull the shutoff out.
  • Now, take your screw driver and remove the screws that hold the lid in place. Once the screws are removed the lid should lift free. Set them to the side before continuing.
  • Next, you’ll take your stiff brush and start scrubbing both the inside and outside of the condenser coils and fan.
  • Once you’ve given them a good scrubbing, take your vacuum and remove any debris that may have fallen down inside the unit.
  • The last thing you’ll want to do before piecing your system back together is straighten out any kinked or dented fins. So take your fin comb and gently work it “with the grain” of the coils to do so. Once you’re done, put the lid back in place and turn the power to you A/C unit back on.

By performing these simple maintenance tasks not only will your system run more efficiently, you’ll extend the life of your system all together. Which just adds up to more savings. If you’re looking for more ways to save on your cooling costs, try pairing your A/C with ceiling fans. Or, look into how smart landscaping can save you both money and energy around your home.

Also, be sure to check out our other green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, it is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of A/C Source Inc and How Stuff Works

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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